United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday decried "glaring inequalities" in wealth being exposed by the coronavirus pandemic, specifically pointing to recent developments in the space tourism industry.
In beseeching global leaders at a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly to promote equitable COVID-19 vaccine distribution as well as take greater action against climate change, Guterres made a point to blast the development of space tourism missions amid a public health crisis, saying the practice exacerbates long-standing inequalities.
“COVID and the climate crisis have exposed profound fragilities as societies and as a planet. Yet instead of humility in the face of these epic challenges, we see hubris,” he began, highlighting the “malady of mistrust” growing between different socioeconomic groups.
“When they see billionaires joyriding to space while millions go hungry on earth ... the people we serve and represent may lose faith not only in their governments and institutions — but in the values that have animated the work of the United Nations for over 75 years,” Guterres said.
Billionaires including Amazon founder Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Uber - Biden, Democrats dig into legislative specifics Replace Kamala Harris with William Shatner to get kids excited about space exploration Shatner pushes back on Prince William over space flight comments MORE, Tesla CEO Elon MuskElon Reeve MuskPrince William urges focus on saving planet instead of space travel Democrats' electric vehicle push sparks intense lobbying fight Blue Origin is taking William Shatner to space — but can it distract from internal criticism? MORE and Virgin Mobile CEO Richard Branson have all been heavily involved in the boom of the space tourism industry. All three have developed and launched their own space tourism companies and successfully sent passengers into space in 2021.
Bezos and Branson have both visited space themselves.
While some of the inaugural flights featured veteran astronauts and lucky volunteers, the cost of tickets to board one of these flights stand to be incredibly costly, with Branson’s Virgin Galactic tickets running at about $250,000 per passenger.
The development of space tourism has led to widespread criticism for the billionaires from legislators like Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Ethics office warned officials about unnecessary trades Fed imposes tougher rules on financial trades amid scandal MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie SandersBiden says expanding Medicare to include hearing, dental and vision a 'reach' Schumer endorses democratic socialist India Walton in Buffalo mayor's race On The Money — Sussing out what Sinema wants MORE (I-Vt.), who advocate wealth taxes on individuals with high net worths and who say that climate change and poverty should be higher priorities to those with massive wealth.
Bezos conceded to some of these critiques.
“They’re largely right, we have to do both,” he told CNN reporters. “We have lots of problems in the here and now on Earth and we need to work on those, and we always need to look to the future. We have to do both.”
Bezos further added that these passenger trips aim to lay the groundwork to make space travel more commercialized.